This report provides thematic analysis of social media posts criticising the Snapchat tool Snap Maps. Social Media posts were found through searches on Twitter, Reddit and YouTube. These examples demonstrate a correlation between Snap Maps and the following: stalking, addiction to stalking, physical stalking, the normalisation of stalking, the transformation of social norms, Snap Maps as an unnecessary invasion of privacy and Snap Maps as a vulnerability toward the safety of children.
Snapchat is a social media app that allows people to talk and send photos to one another that disappear after viewing. Snapchat has over 300 millions users worldwide and 20 million users in the UK.
Snap Maps is a Social Media tool that encourages Snapchat users to provide their geolocation data towards other Snapchat users. Snapchat users are able to view their friend’s geolocation through a GPS map like Google Maps.
This report provides evidence of young people’s dissatisfaction and fear of Snap Maps. The correlation between criticism and inability to impact Snapchat demonstrates the extreme imbalance of power between Social Media monopolies and Social Media Users. In the case of Snapchat this imbalance is emphasised through the vulnerability of its users. According to the LSE 23% of users haven’t graduated from High School and 50% are under 25 years old. Therefore we have a gross situation where Snap Maps, the Social Media site of choice for young people, are encouraging children to share geolocation data despite being too young to conceptualise the hazards associated with sharing geolocation data, or, amongst those that are aware of the risks, politically and socially incapable of holding Snapchat to account.
It seems obvious that Snap Maps has introduced a litany of problems associated with permanently offering geolocation data to social media users. The most effective response would be to have Snap Maps banned.
Twitter Criticism of Snap Maps:
Through searching Twitter, one can find a great deal of responses detailing how Snap Maps has encouraged stalking behaviours. Themes emerged relating towards Snap Maps and the following: the encouragement of cyberstalking, the addiction towards cyberstalking, the normalisation of cyberstalking, physical stalking and the transformation of conventional social lives.
Tweets suggest a direct correlation between cyberstalking behaviours and Snap Maps. Nadine writing on the 30th of December 2021 commented ‘love stalking people on snap map’. Christian, whose tweet was liked 117 times and retweeted 5 times, on the 8th of August wrote ‘I love stalking ppl on snap maps’. The popularity of the tweet suggests twitter users agreed or were entertained by the behaviour enabled or created through Snap Maps. A post from Click.Click.Click, retweeted 19 times, on March 22nd 2018 wrote ‘Snap Maps update makes it even better for stalking your friends’. Riley wrote on the 18th of May 2018 that her hobbies include 1. Napping, 2. Stalking people on snap maps. Riley’s tweet was liked 17 times. These tweets demonstrate that Snap Maps is directly creating behaviours of cyber stalking. The fact that these behaviours are tweeted and liked multiple times, in the case of Christian 117 times, suggests that people are in agreement that Snap Maps is encouraging cyberstalking.
Addiction to Cyberstalking
Tweets suggested that Snap Maps is creating unwanted, obsessive and addictive cyberstalking behaviours. Summer, whose tweet was liked 30 times, wrote ‘I have got a BAD obsession with stalking snap maps. It’s gotta stop’. Ash, whose tweet was liked 5 times, wrote ‘I really need to stop stalking people on snap maps I feel like im a 40 yr old pervert watching everyone’. _embemm, whose tweet was liked 12 times, wrote ‘This dude sitting next to me at the airport has been stalking the same girl on snap maps for the past half hour. It’s 6 AM bro she’s not going anywhere’. Repitition of words like ‘obsession’, ‘perversion’ and ‘stalking’ emphasise the severity of the habit pattern engineered through the use of Snap Maps. In the cases of Summer and Ash, it is suggested that they are ashamed with the behaviour pattern that has been conditioned through using Snap Maps. Summer wrote ‘it’s gotta stop’, similarly, Ash criticises himself writing ‘I feel like im a 40 yr old pervert watching everyone’. The active aversion towards cyberstalking from Snapchat users demonstrates the strength of Snap Maps in conditioning stalking behaviours, suggesting that the addiction toward surveilling people’s geolocation through Snap Maps has become so strong that they are unable to relinquish their efforts despite being not liking their behaviour.
Normalization of Cyberstalking
Further evidence of the direct complicity in encouraging cyberstalking can be established through tweets on how Snap Maps has normalised stalking. Claire tweeted the sentence ‘NORMALIZE STALKING PEOPLE ON SNAP MAPS’ four times. Claire’s tweet suggests that Snap Maps is responsible for the normalisation of stalking. This may be interpreted as Snap Maps encouraging the normalisation of all types of stalking, not just cyberstalking. Batchy, in August 2019, wrote the joke ‘if social media platforms had honest names. Twitter would be ‘Read some shite while having a shite. Facebook would be ‘Racist Auntie Rants’. And Snapchat would be “Stop stalking that lassie on snap maps Brian, for fuck sake get a life’. Batchy’s joke, liked 119 times and retweeted 16 times, suggests that the most normalised and therefore satirical feature of not just Snap Maps, but the entirety of Snapchat, is the association with stalking. Therefore, these tweets suggest that Snapchat has normalised and defined modern standards of stalking, with Batchy suggesting that the normalisation of stalking is Snapchat’s most recognisable feature.
Physical Stalking and Harassment
There is evidence that Snap Maps is leading towards physical stalking. ‘On July 4th 2019, The person in question used Snapchat maps to follow the individual around for several days. Cannot for the life of me see what advantage Snap Maps offers anyone apart from creating dangerous situations such as this. Turn your snap map off!’. Therefore, this tweet suggests that people are using geolocation data gained through Snap Maps to physically stalk people. A similar case of physical stalking and assault was reported in Australia in March 2021, when a group used Snap Maps ‘to gate crash a party in the wealthy Melbourne suburb of Brighton’ leading towards the assault of a young girl’.
Transformation of Social Lives
Beyond the correlation between Snap Maps and stalking behaviours, there is evidence that Snap Maps and the permanent availability of someone’s geolocation is transforming people’s social lives in different ways. Janie, whose tweet has been liked 8 times, wrote ‘Stalking people on snap maps isn’t fun anymore and that’s the
saddest part of graduating’. This suggests that stalking on Snap Maps has become a defining feature of peoples experience of high school. Ellie, whose tweet was liked 10 times, is evidence of how Snap Maps is increasing social pressures writing ‘Love when Ellie texts me at 12:30 and asks me where I’m going because she’s stalking me on snap maps’. Nicole, whose tweet was liked 7 times, wrote ‘I wonder how many problems Snap Maps has caused. Stalking/relationship issues/ruining surprises, etc. lololol’. This tweet highlights the problems that arise through sharing geolocation data suggesting complications in stalking, relationships and the surprises of life. Therefore, the tweets provide evidence that Snap Maps has transformed social relations through the permanent sharing of geolocation data. It is suggested that social relations are being defined through Snap Maps relations, with the sharing of geolocation data increasing pressure on social relations and possibly leading towards problems in stalking and relationships.
Reddit Criticism of Snap Maps:
A Snapchat thread on Reddit started in September 2021 titled ‘Snap Maps is creepy and should not be a feature’ received 199 upvotes and 40 comments. The comments correlate Snap Maps with an unnecessary invasion of privacy, making young people feel unsafe and the correlation between Snap Maps and stalking and harassment.
Invasion of Privacy
Comments from To_oCh and TheRedditGirl15 assert Snapchat as an unnecessary invasion of people’s privacy. The former writes ‘it blows my mind how many people leave it (Snap Maps) enabled or ask me why I don’t have it enabled. Sorry I don’t like people being able to track my every move’. TheRedditGirl15 writes that people use information through Snap Maps to ‘fuel things like suspicion and trust issues in a relationship’ which ‘IS wrong’ adding ‘unless they straight up lied to you or gave you a reason to doubt them, you don’t need to be doing this shit’. These comments demonstrate that Snap Maps has created uncomfortable levels of surveillance for the individual and social or romantic relationships.
Vulnerability to Children
There are three Reddit comments that suggest that Snap Maps is dangerous for children. Unpopularopinion, upvoted 199 times, wrote that ‘I don’t know why but a load of my friends are displaying their GPS location everywhere they go. Considering Snapchat is a youth-oriented app, I don’t think it should be a thing. I understand the convenience of it all but I just find it superweird’. Gleutiful emphasises that SnapChat is directly responsible for these geolocation vulnerabilities writing ‘every single app that they share their location is an additional avenue for danger. Just because they do it on other apps does not lessen the danger, it amplifies. There are many kids who may only use snapchat, so snapchat has everything to do with it.’, thus, because SnapChat is the one app that Children use where they are being expected to offer geolocation data socially, SnapChat is responsible for the normalisation of the potentially risky act of sharing geolocation data. Cross_fire133 emphasises the complications of children understanding the hazards associated with geolocation data writing that ‘most of us have passed the age of 13 so it seems to us so obvious that it is dangerous and that it can be turned off. But children aged 12, 13 etc. do not look the same way at what they do… the issue of awareness is terribly different in children than in adults and for evidence you will remember that there are a lot of things that are constitutionally limited to a certain age’. Therefore, these three comments present the geolocation vulnerabilities Snapchat exposes to children on
subjects like privacy, the normalisation of sharing geolocation data and the complications on the subject of consenting towards the sharing of geolocation data.
Stalking and Harassment
There are three Reddit comments that stress the correlation between Snap Maps and stalking. Posessed Fire and Medical Wielder suggest that they were physically stalked through Snap Maps. The former writing that ‘I started secretly dating a girl I was on a semester long group project with…. Another group member who I suspected was jealous confronted us via the snap map with screen shots of the snap map and us being at my house at 3AM. She even tracked us down at the bar to confront us with the ‘evidence’. The latter writes ‘my ex used the map to find me at a different house at 2am she thought I was cheating but I was just at my friends house playing smash bros’. Therefore, these two statements suggest that Snap Maps led towards physical harassment and stalking in relation towards interest or jealousy in the context of romantic relationships. Meow05, upvoted 19 times, simply states the explicit privacy violations associated with SnapMaps writing ‘it’s really easy to stalk people with it too. You can easily find where someone lives’.
YouTube Criticism of Snap Maps:
Two videos on YouTube emphasise the Teenage opinion of Snap Maps. Within these teen led videos criticism of Snap Maps emerged on subjects like stalking, social pressure and the inability to prevent social media companies introducing and normalising unpopular and dangerous features.
The first video ‘TEENS REACT TO SNAP MAPS (Snapchat Maps Memes)’ has over 2 million views and 47,000 likes. It was created in July 4th 2017 in anticipation of Snap Maps. 44% of the teenagers say that they will not use Snap Maps. This video offers a litany of criticism from various teenagers describing Snap Maps as ‘creepy’, ‘scary’, ‘really invasive’ and a ‘huge invasion of privacy’. Anticipated problems include stalking; ‘it’s like a stalker lab. It’s like dangerous for people because, you know, there’s always those weirdos that add you on Snapchat or you add back by accident’ and social pressures; ‘sometimes you wanna limit whose with you and now you can’t even hide it’ and ‘when all your friends go to a party and they don’t invite you’. There is concern with the normalisation of how technology is introduced and normalised in social groups without effective ethical consideration, one of the guests says ‘since we grew up with it (Snapchat) we get desensitised to it. It’s bad because we’re kind of just used to it’ with another writing ‘it’s bad because we never thought about it like this is not cool its crazy but I should have. It’s because this day and age we think oh we’ve got a new update’. Problems associated with Snap Maps are predicted on the video with one person saying, ‘this could turn into something really bad’ another writing ‘I think they should delete it for everyone so no one can use it’. The fact that problems associated with Snap Maps are so evident to teenagers is evidence of both the powerlessness of Snapchat users and the explicit problems associated with the tool. Firstly, these teenagers do not have the political capacity to effectively assert their political rights, many of whom will not have the ability to vote, thus are powerless towards the Snapchats design. Secondly, even without using the tool, the video’s guests are aware of the ethical concerns with sharing geolocation data, suggesting that Snapchat would’ve been clearly aware of user concerns prior to introducing the tool. The 2 million views and 47 thousand likes suggest popularity with the views communicated through this video, possibly implying it to be representative of popular opinion.
Similarly, the second video titled Everything You Need To Know About Snap Maps, published by youth magazine I-D, explicitly correlates Snap Maps with stalking. The presenter, Deba, says that Snap Maps ‘has taken social media stalking to the next level. The next time you’re saying, ‘I’m going out just to meet a friend’ you better be telling the truth because with Snapchat Maps anyone can tell exactly where you are so no lying’. Moreover, Deba emphasises Snap Maps as an unnecessary invasion of privacy in regard to romance and relationships writing ‘imagine seeing two of your friends that really aren’t supposed to be together and you see them at the same location at the same time they’re definitely hooking up’.
Discussion and Summary
The comments from Reddit, Twitter and YouTube are a warning to all people concerned with governance. Children are being forced to use tools that are compromising their safety. Many children are aware of the dangers yet feel unable to stop Snapchats’ normalisation of the sharing of geolocation data. Amidst stalking cases increasing from 32,000 between April 2019 and March 2020 to 98,863 between April 2020 and March 2021 it is clear that the government and civil society should work together to prevent stalking. The above comments demonstrate a direct correlation between the introduction of Snap Maps and the encouragement, normalisation and even addiction towards stalking behaviours. Moreover, there is great evidence of discomfort with Snap Maps creating an unnecessary invasion of people’s privacy, leading towards social and romantic complications.
As policy makers, representatives and those with political power these statements should be seen as encouragements that political power is used to protect the privacy of young people. Snapchat is a company with 300 million users and worth 90 billion dollars. According to the LSE 50% of its users are under 25 and 23% haven’t graduated from High School. Without political position or experience, children and young people are virtually powerless to prevent Snap Maps introduce intimidating forms of social surveillance. The comments from Twitter, Reddit and YouTube emphasise the necessity for law makers and civil society to protect young people from surveillance technologies. If today’s lawmakers cannot protect our young people, then these decisions will be written from the wounds and scars of the next generation whose privacy was unnecessarily taken by Snapchat.